Choir of Royal Holloway, University of London / Felicity Lott / Rupert Gough

Hymns to Saint Cecilia

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Installed on the Hyperion label with a multi-album contract, the Choir of Royal Holloway at the University of London is the up-and-comer among English chapel choirs. A 2010 recording of music by Lithuanian composer Vytautas Miskinis suggested the choir would try to focus on contemporary music without the obligatory Renaissance motets, and this 2014 release confirms that impression. The all-British program is novel in its way, avoiding most of the rich history of pieces dedicated to St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music. It reaches back to Elgar and Vaughan Williams and forward to a pair of newly commissioned works by James MacMillan and Gabriel Jackson. Most of the music may be familiar to Britons who have sung in a choir at some point, but for others it will probably be somewhat obscure and contains several delightful finds. These include the remarkable, almost bitonal There is sweet music by Elgar (1907) and the compact and harmonically ingenious Silence and Music of Vaughan Williams. Within a framework of relatively consistent tempo and mood, and with the program marked into sections only by the inclusion of an organ in most of the second half, the music is remarkably varied, and the album will reward repeated hearings. The Choir of Royal Holloway does not have the long traditions of some of the leading British choirs, but for such a young and comparatively large group intonation problems are few and far between. An ideal holiday item for the lover of English choral music.

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